Matchup, p.11
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       MatchUp, p.11
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           Lee Child

  “I intend to find the bastard who did.”

  Thorsten thought about that. Then, “Yeow learned some interesting facts about you.”

  “Such as?”

  “Beats me.”

  “He didn’t brief you on his investigation?”

  “Yeow was a veteran. We operated on a need-to-know basis.”

  “I need to know.”

  Another tense silence as they stared in two directions across the desk. Thorsten’s gaze was impersonal. Brennan figured years had passed since empathy last wormed into it.

  “You’re aiding Luong with the doc’s defense?” Thorsten asked Reacher.

  “I am.”

  “Paralegally.”

  “Yes. It would help to have the names of people Yeow was interviewing.”

  Thorsten laughed, as Brennan and Reacher both knew he would. “Please. I can’t reveal sources.” Realizing his mistake. “If I knew them.”

  “Yeow never told you what they said?” Brennan asked.

  Thorsten shook his head slowly.

  “He never showed you his notes? Asked for authorization? Requested travel money? Inducement money? Lunch money?”

  The head kept wagging.

  “What can you reveal, Mr. Thorsten?” Reacher, the diplomat.

  “Yeow promised me one hell of a piece.”

  “Guess you’re out of luck on that.” Distaste coated Brennan’s tone.

  “Or the story’s become much better.”

  “Be very careful, Mr. Thorsten.”

  “Is that a threat?”

  “Journalists often pretend they know more than they do.”

  Thorsten shrugged. Whatever.

  Brennan glanced at Reacher. He dipped his chin. They both stood.

  “I didn’t kill Jonathan Yeow,” Brennan said, looking down at the editor. “And I didn’t make an error or take a bribe in the Calder Massee case. When I prove those two facts, and find Yeow’s killer, my first call will be to the New York Times.”

  Brennan drew a card from her shoulder bag and winged it onto the desk. Then she and Reacher turned and left. Along the corridor overlooking the very long newsroom. Down the quiet elevator. Through the lobby out onto K street. Which wasn’t quiet.

  They decided to take the Metro. Were waiting on the platform when Brennan’s cell phone rang. Caller ID displayed an unfamiliar number. She answered anyway.

  “You didn’t hear this from me.” The Kalahari voice was muffled, as though Thorsten’s mouth was cupped with one hand.

  “Hear what?”

  “Ian Massee.”

  “Calder’s youngest brother.”

  “Ian thinks the suicide was a DOD-ordered execution.”

  “So do a lot of people.”

  “The guy’s a lunatic.”

  “You’ve spoken to him?” Locking eyes with Reacher, who was listening to her end of the conversation.

  “Many times. Until I stopped taking his calls.”

  “Do you think he could be violent?”

  “He loathes the government.”

  “So do a lot of people.”

  “In my opinion, Ian Massee’s the next Sandy Hook waiting to happen.”

  “Why would he kill Yeow? Yeow was going to prove him right.”

  “Follow the money,” said the Kalahari voice, muffled, like a dust storm.

  Then the call clicked off.

  Reacher said, “Our Mr. Thorsten is a versatile character. One minute Mr. Cautious Corporate Editor, and the next minute Mr. Watergate Deep Throat.”

  Brennan said, “I don’t want to have to talk to Ian Massee.”

  “Maybe we won’t have to. Why would Thorsten change his tune like that?”

  “You tell me.”

  “Maybe he dreams of the old days.”

  “Or?”

  “He dreams of the money. He runs a newspaper. He’s got a great story that just got better. He could sell a lot of extra copies. He could get all kinds of syndication deals. Maybe a movie. Except he doesn’t know what the story is. Not yet. He knows the sources. But he doesn’t know what they said. He’s trying to get us to do the interviews all over again. To keep the dream alive.”

  “Doesn’t work,” Brennan said. “Thorsten wouldn’t benefit. I’m sure Ian Massee sold the movie rights years ago. It’s his project. And Watergate is ancient history. Journalists are different now. They know better. A hack like Yeow would sign up with Massee’s people ahead of time, and in his own name. He’d cut Thorsten out. He’d want all the profit, not just a percentage.”

  “You’re following the money.”

  “To where?”

  “To wherever Ian Massee sold the rights. Some movie company somewhere knows the whole story. As a contractual requirement, I’m sure. Before making their substantial investment.”

  Brennan said, “Which would make them protect Mr. Yeow, because he’s the golden goose. They can’t possibly be suspects.”

  Reacher said nothing.

  Brennan said, “And obviously they’re not. But I suppose a rival might be. If someone wins, someone else loses. Suppose the someone else doesn’t want to lose. People tell me show business is tough. Kill Yeow, you kill your competitor’s bid for glory. And you make him waste his investment. That comes off his bottom line. It’s a win-win.”

  “Follow the money.”

  “Which means television, not movies. People tell me that’s where the money is these days. In which case there are hundreds of companies and therefore potentially thousands of one-on-one ratings wars. Millions, actually. It’s a math thing.”

  “I understand,” Reacher said. “I went to West Point. Which is a kind of college.”

  “It’s an academy.”

  “We could all read and write.”

  “We would need to start where Ian Massee sold the rights. And work outward from there. Which means talking to him anyway. We’re back where we started.”

  “At least we know what to ask him. We don’t have to beat about the bush.”

  THEY RODE THE METRO TO where Brennan’s internet phone told them Ian Massee maintained his office. Which turned out to be a storefront with a yellow painted-over window, between a post office and a bilingual tax preparer, in a mall about equidistant from the best and the worst the metro area had to offer.

  On the inside the office was a plain rectangular space, and it was empty, except for a woman at a reception desk, just inside the door. She was backlit with gold, from the sunlight coming through the painted window.

  Reacher stepped up and asked, “Is Mr. Ian Massee in the office?”

  The woman looked at him with a pleasant receptionist-style smile, warm and friendly, except her eyes said It’s an open-plan office with only me in it. What part of that don’t you understand?

  She said out loud, “Not at the moment, I’m afraid.”

  “Is he due back?”

  “Not today, I’m afraid.”

  “Where is he?”

  “I’m not at liberty to say.”

  “You should call him on the phone.”

  “Why?”

  Reacher stepped aside and Brennan stepped up.

  The woman said, “You’re her.”

  Brennan said, “Call him.”

  She did. They heard the local end of the conversation, which started with repeated answers to what must have been are-you-sure questions, and then continued with arrangements around a place called Sammy’s, which from the sound of it could have been anything from a strip club to a noodle shop, but which turned out to be a television production company.

  Ian Massee was in a meeting about his documentary.

  Temperance Brennan was welcome to come right over.

  In fact they would send a car.

  “No,” Brennan said, and called an Uber.

  THE PRODUCTION COMPANY WAS ONE of a dozen sharing space in Crystal City. They went in assuming every microphone was live and every camera recording. Ian Massee met them in the corridor. He was a fair-haired versi
on of the guy who had driven Reacher out of Baltimore. No doubt once a chiseled and slender youth, now bloated and rotted by stress and anger and bad food and too long in the bar.

  But in the moment he was pleasant enough. He took Reacher to be Brennan’s bodyguard, which he seemed to expect, as if it would be crazy for her to come without one. At first he seemed stunned to be in her presence. She was the key to the conspiracy. He was face-to-face with the woman who knew everything.

  He was face-to-face with the woman who had killed Jonathan Yeow.

  Then eventually he spoke, by asking politely if they would precede him into an office. He held a door. Reacher went first. Brennan followed. It was a multipurpose space. Technical equipment was stacked all around. There were white laminate desks. There were two men sitting on them. One was a wild-eyed guy with long gray hair and a four-day beard. He was very tall and very thin, and he was dressed in a fine-wale corduroy suit, gone all pouched and baggy from constant use. He was wearing fingerless gloves. Maybe the wintertime equivalent of wearing sunglasses inside.

  The other guy had a missing hand.

  He was short and solid under an impassive face, wearing a blue suit, sitting straight, all slabs and angles, all symmetrical, except on one side was a hand and on the other was a hook. Or, to be fair to the scientists who developed it, a sophisticated prosthesis ending in two controllable fingers, normally held an inch apart, but capable of being clamped. The fingers were shaped like hooks. For efficiency. The pirates had it right from the beginning.

  Ian Massee introduced the wild-eyed guy with the long gray hair as Paul Warwick. He was an award-winning documentary maker. Then Massee introduced the one-handed guy as Samuel Rye. He was the money. He owned the production company. The three of them stretched the introductions into self-effacing laments about what they could lose. Warwick could lose his reputation. Rye could lose his fortune. Massee could lose his chance to tell the truth.

  Brennan said, “It’s not the truth. I don’t understand how you think it could be. You know nothing. You’ve seen nothing.”

  Massee paused a beat, preparing a reply, but Warwick jumped in first, all restless energy. He said, “We have plenty of evidence.”

  “You don’t. There is no evidence.”

  “We have travel orders. A second person left the same base at the same time.”

  “Traffic in and out of bases is constant. It doesn’t imply a connection. It’s a meaningless coincidence.”

  “There was trace evidence of a second man in the car where Calder Massee was killed.”

  “Where Calder Massee killed himself,” Brennan corrected. “I’m sure it was a staff car, or a rental. Hundreds of men had been in it. That’s another red herring.”

  “There’s more than that.”

  Brennan sat down on a third desk.

  She said, “Tell me.”

  Reacher stood behind her.

  Warwick said, “Calder Massee was an air force colonel with a security clearance. That was a jackpot combination in 1987. The Cold War was still on. The air force had all the cool toys. They had the bombers endlessly prowling overhead. But someone was leaking. Calder Massee was wrongly suspected and falsely accused. While in custody he was badly beaten. When the real leak was found, Massee was killed too, to cover up the embarrassing mistake.”

  Brennan said, “That’s a speech, not evidence.”

  “We have the order deploying the assassin.”

  “We?”

  “Yeow has it. Or had it.”

  “Where is it now?”

  “We don’t know.”

  “Are you going to do the program without it?”

  Warwick didn’t answer.

  Massee said, “My brother was a patriot and an honorable man. He was not a spy.”

  No one answered.

  Reacher looked at Samuel Rye and asked, “How much money will you lose?”

  “It’s not the money,” Rye said. “It’s truth and justice.”

  “Big words.”

  “My company is built on them.”

  “Truth is Dr. Brennan never laid eyes on Yeow.”

  “If you say so.”

  “I do.”

  “So the government did it.”

  “The government wouldn’t use a plastic bag,” Reacher said. “Believe me.”

  “So who?”

  “Would a rival do it to hurt you?”

  “To kill my show? It’s possible.”

  Rye went quiet for a long moment.

  Then he said, “But you know what? Screw them. I just decided. We’re going to do the show anyway.”

  Warwick punched the air. He said, “Great decision, Sammy. Real cutting edge. Because losing Yeow doesn’t really hurt us. It actually helps us. We’ll be totally up front about it. We’ll say, this is the story, and brave Jonathan Yeow was murdered while confirming it. The audience will draw its own conclusions. Don’t you see? The message is even stronger with a dead guy.”

  Brennan said, “You’re disgusting.”

  “Says the killer,” Massee said.

  It got tense for a second. Then Reacher stepped out from behind Brennan’s desk. Six five, two fifty, hands the size of dinner plates. He figured he could snap Warwick in two like a pencil, and then tear Rye’s prosthesis off and stuff it down his throat. He figured Massee would have a heart attack all by himself, before throwing his first punch.

  He said, “We’re leaving now. But I’m sure we’ll see you again.”

  THEY WALKED A BLOCK TO a neutral corner and waited five minutes for another Uber. Brennan spent the time on her phone, bouncing from link to link, following industry gossip about Samuel Rye’s rivals. Then she hit a trade paper headline that said “Rye Signs Controversial Documentary Maker.” There was a picture. Mad eyes, long gray hair, beanpole build. Paul Warwick. She started reading.

  The car came and they got in. She said, “Warwick sounds like a piece of work. There are numerous complaints he routinely bullies witnesses, fakes documents, and completely ignores any information that doesn’t fit his story.”

  Reacher said, “How did your prints get on the bag?”

  “I don’t know.”

 
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